Franklin tackles "rockism"--or rather, refutes it [[update: refutes it as an easy blanket charge--is that better, F?]], for himself at least. A couple things: It's not a Xgau coinage--it arose, I believe, from the post-punk and even postpunk (har har, or maybe not) discourse in the from late '70s UK weeklies. And when I first read that my SoTT def. had to do with "how one approaches canon formation," my first instinct was that he was wrong--until I realized that he was talking less about records than about musicians.
I used to sell hologram bolo ties at the Mall of America
Monday, May 31, 2004
Not like any of y'all motherfuckers care, but this is still the best thing I've ever written.
Friday, May 28, 2004
Sometimes immersion therapy is the only answer. Been feeling much malaise about the glut of product to wade through of late (I'm not the only one--it's a critblog theme of late), but after a pretty thorough clean-out two weekends ago, I've been making my way through a lot of new stuff, some of it better than other (duh), but more of it interesting if not good than I'd expected. After months of lousy records that taught me nothing, decent-to-excellent ones with lessons embedded are a gift. Even better, I've been keeping track of stuff I'm not necessarily supposed to write about right away, which sweetens the deal for me considerably--roaming is a hefty part of the pleasure of the job, or should be. Much of it I don't even have an opinion about yet: A.C. Newman, Automato, the Thermals, Phoenix, M83, Arvane, these three Brazilian comps Universal sent (w/more to come), Harkonen/These Arms Are Snakes split, Pan Sonic 4CD monster, Cachao, all those Sublime Frequencies "field recordings." But I'm really enjoying swimming around in all of it, figuring out where it all fits.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
By the way, it's over. Six dentist visits in three weeks, and I am now the possessor of very clean teeth, one of which is gold. I need not visit for another six months. Huzzah! Pics forthcoming, perhaps.
How on earth did it take this long for someone to compile the 100 worst porn titles? Brad Yung, we salute you. Too bad I couldn't make it past no. 6.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Me on the new Dylan live '64 thing in the Voice. Hint: I don't like it.
Monday, May 24, 2004
More questions, more answers.
What do you make of the fact that each of your top 3 is quite lyric-heavy?
I noticed this immediately upon realizing that it was my top three, a couple months ago; I guess it just means I like singer-songwriters a lot right now. (With Ghostface right underneath, it’s a lyric-heavy top four, actually.) That might be a function of getting older (I’m 29), and it might not. I prefer to think, though, that in this case it’s just that the most interesting stuff being made, or that’s reaching me, happens to have lots of words in it, but maybe not. In either case, I’m less surprised by it than you might think, because I love lots of singer-songwriters, I’m just picky about it. Since my writing niche is more or less dance music---it’s what I’m best known as a critic of---people assume I don’t care about lyrics, which 90% of the time I don’t. Lyrics have to be pretty notable in some way or other to get to me, either good or bad or annoying; usually they zip by, which is as it should be.
How did the writing of your (fine) Prince book go? How much research (beyond living your life to this point), how long to get a draft, how many drafts? Whole thing and then polish, or more concentrated work on smaller sections before going on? How much other work were you doing at the same time, and how did you manage (or fail to) your time?
When I got the deal to do the book, I planned to spend two months on it; I deliberately got ridiculous numbers of assignments for the early part of 2003 so I could spend all of May and June on it (it was due July 1). I took a lot of notes on various aspects of the album and on the guy himself (including stuff on the SOTT movie, none of which made it in because I ran out of space and/or time), including most of the “Little Red Corvette” video and plenty of album-dissection stuff. I figured I’d just write riffs and they’d turn into mini-essays and then I’d piece the whole thing together. Then I began talking to Seattle Weekly about coming back as music editor, and in May they made their move, while I was on vacation in Minneapolis. I went back to NYC, packed everything I owned in a week, got a deadline extension to September 18, flew out to Seattle, and started work three days later. After restructuring the section, breaking in new writers, overseeing the Music Awards (which had not been adequately explained to me prior to my arrival) and the Bumbershoot issue, I finally sat down to write the book---on September 2. I wrote it on nights and weekends over two weeks, spent a weekend revising it, and that’s what went to press. I owe my bosses thanks, incidentally, for letting me blow my budget sky-high during that period because I literally had no time to write for the section while I was working on the book.
top three albums of '04 so far
The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come for Free
The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me
The Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed
the new Ghostface is getting up there, too.
three favorite corner bars in ny
The Magician, Hi-Fi, and Siberia.
which elvis do you prefer
The one that made “Burning Love,” his best record---though I actually prefer the drummer on that one.
1) What was your best interviewing-a-musician experience?
The Signal to Noise magazine Sound Unseen I did with DJ /rupture was extremely fun; once the interview was done, we shot the shit for about an hour, and he’s a pretty great guy.
2) Describe a "conversion experience" moment--when you started to like an artist you'd previously not liked.
In early 1994, “Loser” had just come out, and I was mostly indifferent to it. I was 19, and extremely distrustful of what was being sold to people my age as “irony,” which was pervasive in alt-rock, especially in Minneapolis (or any town that large, I imagine). So “Loser” vaguely annoyed me, and when my friend Aaron Worrell, who cooked at the café where I washed dishes (I’d abjured college), told me he really liked not just the song but the album---and Aaron was someone whose tastes I trusted implicitly---I recoiled slightly. Then I went to First Avenue on a Sunday night---I went there every Sunday for their all-ages dance nights---and while I was on the floor, dancing with a bunch of other people, the DJ put it on. At the time I had a really stupid, very uptight, rockist policy of refusing to dance to songs I had decided I didn’t like, whether they were better to dance to than the ones I liked or not (and house/techno aside, most of ‘em were), but I kept moving. And pretty soon I was smiling like a fucking idiot. I bought Mellow Gold the next day and was blown away. I still think that’s a great album, by the way, even though Beck-bashing is pretty common, especially on ILM; I also think it’s the best thing he’s done by a friggin’ mile.
3) Who are your favorite arts critics who aren't music critics?
Of the former rockcrit school: Tom Carson, Joy Press, Paul Lukas. Of the non-music writers: Dave Hickey, Roger Ebert (probably the single most influential critic of my life; his program w/Gene Siskel was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid), Pauline Kael, Ruth Reichl (though I’m not very familiar w/her criticism; I’m a big fan of her two memoirs), Louis Menand, A.J. Liebling if he counts (again, I know his memoirs better than his criticism. I’m sure there are others I’m missing.
1. how have you been doing?
Pretty good, though I’m thoroughly sick of my dentist now---I’ve seen him five times in two weeks, and go back Wednesday to have my temporary crown replaced by a permanent (gold) one. And I need to sell CDs and get dinner, which I’m going to do really soon.
2. what was the last song that made you cry, and why?
Dusty Springfield’s “So Much Love,” which overwhelmed me after not hearing it for years---and not getting it when I did hear it then. Plus I’d just met a woman I was interested in, and, uh, I’m kind of a sap. The woman didn’t work out, as it happens. I still like the song, though.
3. if you had access to unlimited funds (money, time, resources, etc) how would your section change? would it?
The section I edit, you mean, right? I’d write a lot less, for one thing---and I don’t write that often. I’d just write for other places and do a long piece every few months, if that. And I’d probably get even better (and more expensive) writers than the ones I use now. I’d probably also raise my rates. And then there would be world peace.
A two-parter: How often do you read over your earlier work? Do you ever try to re-write pieces a few months or a few years after you have published them?
I try not to read too far back---too embarrassing-slash-painful, just hideous at times, especially when I realize how much I overrated something or how completely off the mark an observation was. I don’t try to re-write pieces, generally, though I’m always a little surprised, and dismayed, at how, in tackling the same subject, I use the same phrases I did before, without realizing it.
How--if at all--has becoming an editor changed you as a writer?
I think I’m a far better editor than I am a writer, in part because I’m a natural reactor---if someone else has an idea I like, I can see where they fall short and help them hone it, or if I don’t like it I can pinpoint why. That’s one reason I’m a critic---I really don’t have many ideas of my own, and I say that without any false modesty or pleasure. (I’ve never wanted to write fiction for that reason, either, outside of a vague abstract desire to, you know, have written fiction.) In that sense, it hasn’t changed my writing that much---I still make the same mistakes when I’m filing copy (as it’s charmingly called in the trade) as I did before I got this job. But even when I sucked my copy was pretty clean---maybe not at the very beginning, but certainly within six months of writing for print most of what I turned in was fairly printable in format if not content. A lot of that is the doing of my editors---primarily Jon Dolan at City Pages (he’s at Spin now) and Kiki Yablon at the Chicago Reader---but just as much is down to my own sense of perfectionism.
1) I noticed that tons of alt-weeklies did a blow-by-blow acount of the recent SXSW festival. I think this is all fine and good if you live in Austin, or have an interest in music insider dish, but do regular readers really care about stuff like this? I understand getting hip to an artist there and possibly doing a feature, but it seems like the whole hourly diary treatment I saw in so many rags was excessive. Maybe it was the only way to justify going there in the first place? Am I wrong?
I tend to agree with you about this; we ran a SXSW piece this year because Andrew Bonazelli, a staff writer here, went with a local band and wrote the piece about their experiences there. My basic feeling is that a story like that is only of interest if there’s a local angle, or if the writer is also a columnist, or if it isn’t just another blow-by-blow thing. The thing is, SXSW is the biggest one of them---over 10,000 people went this year, and while I’m sure most of that is bizzers it’s can’t all be. (Can it?) But I don’t run festival coverage of non-local events as a matter of principle.
2) My problem with alt-weekly music writing can be summed up by the following excerpt from a review that ran in City Pages recently: "There's no parking on their dance floor, so cut, like, several rugs or grab some wall, critic. That's the way things go in depressed industrial college burgs like VCR's hometown of Richmond, Virginia--the unalloyed desperation of backyard black-light keg discos manifests itself as the last thin reason you'd choose to stay there, aside from really cheap tobacco. In a city like a hangover, VCR binge on the future like a headache in reverse." (Read the rest here.) First of all, I have no idea what the fuck the writer is talking about. (A headache in reverse? Um, what?) Secondly, I get the feeling that this sentence has less to do with the band than with the writer trying to prove how clever he is. Maybe I'm stupid, but I have no idea who VCR is. This review gave me no context. I'm also not sure whether the writer even likes the record or not. I'm not saying I need a letter grade or a star system, but a review should AT LEAST tell you whether their record is any good, shouldn't it? ANYWAY, I feel like a lot of alt-weekly freelancers aren't really writing for readers, they're writing for other freelancers and their music buddies. Am I wrong?
That piece is by J. Niimi, and I completely disagree with you about it---it’s one of the funniest things I’ve read about music this year anywhere. The excerpt you cite makes perfect sense---the first sentence makes fun of the band’s implicit playing-dumb hipsterdom, and “a headache in reverse” describes a particular kind of small-town malaise excellently. And no, a review should not AT LEAST do anything but succeed in what it sets out to do. J.’s review set out to describe the atmosphere generated by the record in question, and he does it admirably. As far as the whole “freelancers aren’t writing for readers” argument, it’s almost always code for “I need a letter grade or a star system,” even (especially) when people take pains to state otherwise.
Friday, May 21, 2004
More questions, more answers:
I can't think of a single instance I've liked an envelope filter, or a flange, in music recently (at least when they were employed obviously enough for me to identify). Can you give some examples of envelopes/flangers you like, and what you like about them?
Kylie Minogue’s “Love at First Sight,” which the filter makes. It’s right on the intro, on the bassline, and then applied sparingly to the lead guitar line, which is basically nicked from Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better with You”; it gives the whole thing a starry, floating feel--it’s there to tell us we’re in fantasyland now. Then the second verse is filtered to fuck, dublike (it all submerges into the middle), and when Kylie reappears over it, the contrast between her clear-as-day vocal and the kindly-black-hole whoosh going on behind it is fucking delicious. Armand Van Helden’s “Flowerz,” maybe my favorite house record ever; the climax occurs over a filtered-and-flanged version of the track, when Roland Clark starts doing the spoken-word bit and the background flattens out only to spring back louder than ever (I’m convinced AVH boosted the EQ a dB or two to achieve the effect) after an a cappella pause. Go Home Productions, “Rock with Addiction (Awww)”: mash-up producers use filters all the time to effect transitions or cover up bad cuts, and when he swamps the backing track (by Jane’s Addiction) under the second verse and Ashanti just shouts over it (slightly echoed), it’s testifyin’.
When I read this question to Rod Smith over the phone just now, by the way, he coined the term “filter fairy.” He’s one, too.
Pretend there are no CDs, tapes or records; pretend there are only iPods. What has happened to album art?
I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future cover art becomes uploadable along w/the music, and iPods will be upgraded to accommodate it---full color screens, etc., to show it, the way you can see the tracklist et al. Ditto liner notes.
-So I hear you (cough cough) like sex. Is that true?
It is true.
-So I hear you (cough cough) like Prince. Is that true?
That is also true.
-I think you (cough cough) gave me your cold. Some Aleve Cold & Sinus? It's better than disco.
Nothing is better than disco.
1. Could you please summarise the article you wish(ed) to write on the first two Basement Jaxx albums, Vocalcity and Since I Left You?
I think at the time it was something along the lines of how techno had reached its late-’60s rock-album phase, where every new album (Daft Punk were also going to be part of it) kept upping the ante for all the others. I’m not sure I think so anymore--the idea is pretty rockist in retrospect, though my point wasn’t so much that this album era was THE golden age as it is A golden age following other, singles-based ones--but at the time (2001 or so) it really was overwhelming how every few months the post-techno diaspora was coughing up classic albums, one after the other. 2003 did feel very much like an end-of-line year for me that way, though I fully accept it’s probably the fact that the Weekly job forced a re-prioritization in my listening, and that I therefore missed a lot of stuff that might have made me rethink that position.
2. Is there a critical concept or idea about music or a specific style/piece of music/musician that you didn't invent but always wish you had?
I’d kill to have written Sasha Frere-Jones’s Rooty review in the Voice, and I know damn well I couldn’t have, because that piece brought to bear so much experience that I never had and never could have--I didn’t grow up in New York in the ’70s and ’80s. But the array of ideas in that piece, and the way he intertwined things in it, are what I’m reaching for every time I write about something I care deeply about.
1) What is the single most incongruous-yet-workable song-to-song transition you've ever snuck onto a mixtape or CD?
I’m still pretty proud of following the Cranberries’ “Dreams” with a Huun-Huur-Tu track on a tape in 1999.
2) Have there ever been any songs that you initially loved or hated upon first hearing, then completely turned around on once you saw the music video?
Can’t think of any.
3) A two-parter: How susceptible are you to downgrading or disliking a music act or album more than you would normally if you've had numerous negative experiences -- personally, secondhand, or otherwise -- with its fans? And do you feel that dismissing a group in part due to its following is a workable or tenable approach to criticism?
Fan-hate is unavoidable in this line of work because it’s unavoidable in life; I can’t tell you how many otherwise intelligent, reasonable people hate good music in any number of realms (the Grateful Dead, techno, hip-hop) because they hate the people who like it. And working in nightclubs and/or record stores, as I have, make it even more difficult. I do try to avoid blanket dismissals of any kind, but sometimes it’s so much fun to rile people up about a sacred cow that’s plainly missing something that I can’t resist doing it. A good example for me would be Guided by Voices, whose have the most loyal audience imaginable and whom I loathed in theory long before I heard them in fact. (Turns out I loathe them in fact as well, what a shock.) But I’d never write a GBV review based on that. Another, better example is that when I worked at First Avenue, I gained a deep, deep loathing of Jayhawks fans, because I would be barbacking---carting cases of beer (and all Jayhawks fans drink is beer---Heineken, to be exact, with a little Rolling Rock on the side) and bottles of liquor through a room with 1,500 people in it--and NONE OF THEM WOULD FUCKING MOVE OUT OF THE WAY. Me: “Excuse me, I need to get through.” Dude with MBA wearing gas-station attendant button-down w/tag w/someone else’s name on it, standing in front of entrance to main bar: “[looks up from floor with sour expression because I have interrupted his little Walker Evans red-clay-of-the-scorched-earth moment].” As Rod Smith put it, “If you locked Gary Louris in a room with 200 of his fans for two hours, within a week he’d end up sounding like Coil.”
1. What is the most wrong you've ever been about something (personal, musical, criminal, etc.)?
That would have to be the time I let this kid named Chris that I went to high school with stay in my apartment for a few days. On the third day, I came home from work and everything in it was gone.
2. If you had to play Michaelangelo Matos in an eponymous show modeled on Ally McBeal what would your personal theme song be and why?
I’ve never seen Ally McBeal so it’s difficult to put myself in that scenario. But just for kicks I’ll say Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
3. Who is the biggest asshole you've ever had to interview?
He’s probably not an asshole per se, but the worst interview experience I’ve had in person was with Grandmaster Flash, who had just come back from appearing on Terry Gross’ NPR show. He walked in, grabbed a copy of his new mix-CD, which was all ’80s tracks, and thrust it in my face, yelling, “Are you going to ask me about this?! Or are you going to ask me about the past?” Apparently Gross had asked him almost exclusively about the early ’80s, and despite the fact that the interview we were doing centered on a mix-CD containing nothing but songs from that era, he was livid about her line of questioning. The thing was that it wasn’t a straight interview---it was a Call & Response (a.k.a. Jukebox Jury) that was running in Stereo-Type, which entailed me playing him records and him giving his impressions. Apparently no one had informed him what we were going to be doing, and after about two or three songs he just clammed up, smirking, “I dunno, man, I can’t imagine you’re gonna get any good quotes out of this.” I wanted to punch him, and after 20 minutes, I slunk out of the room.
I absolutely love your Prince book. You've said that when you heard Prince you realized here was a current artist making music every bit as good as any of the people in the rock "canon." I absolutely agree, but I also wonder . . . Prince is great in a very "classic rock star" way: he makes great music, he has an interesting persona, and he has hits. Are there any artists who aren't popular (in the Billboard sense of the word) who you think are up there? Or do you think popularity is part of it? Who would fill out your pantheon?
The person who jumped to mind immediately is Jon Langford, who exudes charisma and wit and writes great songs and is a pretty top-looking bloke to boot. But he’s also a flinty socialist who’s extremely smart and seems comfortable enough where he is, and he might be too much a regular guy (the above descriptions aside; he’s a very approachable person from what I’ve heard and seen, though I’ve never met him myself) to fit the bill entirely. I used to think Moby qualified as well, but then he became a rock star and (I am speaking strictly chronologically, even though I know more people who’ll disagree with this than won’t) lost a lot of his inspiration, musically, at least to go by 18 and that new Voodoo Child album, so he doesn’t count anymore. I’m sure there are dozens of others as well.
You're an open admirer of Christgau. What do you think of the other first generation of rock critics biggies: Marcus, Bangs and Meltzer? (I know you ended Meltzer's column, but that was a mercy killing.)
Nobody ever notices this, but I probably ape Marcus as much as I do Christgau---Greil’s deep-listening style, crossfaded with Simon Reynolds’ descriptive acumen, are all over my writing, and so is the way he connects records to larger events, though I’m not as prone to doing that. Bangs is equally important to me; I tried very hard to write like that early on, and I sucked at it, as do most people (including Bangs half the time, as that new collection demonstrates). But Marcus said something in an interview about being inspired by Bangs’ honesty and his willingness to make a fool of himself, to go too far and not hedge his bets, and I get some of the same thing from his writing. If anything, I’m way too careful to ever completely go that way. Meltzer is a sticky issue, for obvious reasons---I’m not proud of the way I handled his dismissal at the Weekly, though I’m not sorry I let him go. But I’ve never been all that big a fan, and what Simon Reynolds said about his being a far more interesting/entertaining writer about the subject of rock criticism---specifically about other rock critics---than about music itself is completely on the money.
1. Have you ever encountered a piece of music (song, track, sonata--formal considerations are irrelevant--as are live/recorded distinctions) that you considered rhythmically perfect from beginning to end? What is/was it?
If you mean something along the lines of the kind of record I wanted to set my pulse to and leave it there forever, the answer is Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, the original ECM recording from 1978---that Nonesuch one from the late ’90s is a bit slower and not as inviting for me.
2. Do you avail yourself of the bleu cheese dressing that usually accompanies wings? Why or why not?
I slather the fuckers with the bleu, in part because I’m getting my licks in before the inevitable---my mother and her dad both have diabetes, and I’m sure I’ll be diagnosed with it soon enough---and in part because I really like the taste.
3. What's the absolute best thing that a woman in whom you were interested has ever said to you? How did you respond?
Easy--it was a woman named Melaine, from England, an art student, 25 to my 20 (impossibly daunting at the time). She was going to school in northern Minnesota and came to Minneapolis on weekends; the second weekend she and I met, I offered her my couch after the party we were at. She was noncommittal, but at party’s end she said, “Well, I’ll take you up on your offer.” She came over, it was 5 a.m., I offered her my bed and I’d take the couch, she tut-tutted me and said, “Don’t be silly. We’ll both sleep on the bed.” We lay down, and she said, “Now, I don’t want to get off or anything, but I’m really glad you asked me to come over. Now let’s cuddle.” That’s the second-best thing a woman I was interested in ever said to me. The best came the next morning, as we woke up. I lay there, my head completely empty, wondering where to go for breakfast, and she poked my shoulder and said, “All right, go ahead and have your way with me.”
Amy H. Phillips:
1. why has minneapolis produced so many great rock writers?
It’s in the middle of the tundra and you can’t do anything six months out of the year except stay in. That’s why there are so many great musicians from there---they practice. And it’s why there are so many good critics---they study records, read, and think. Minneapolis is also the music-distribution capital of the U.S., and the home of a lot of great independent record stores (Let It Be, Treehouse---formerly Oarfolkjokeopus---and the Electric Fetus, among others), as well as the corporate home of Sam Goody and Best Buy, which during the alt-bubble in the early-mid ’90s was discounting CDs like crazy and had ridiculously good selection on everything from catalogues to indies. Even before you bring journalists and critics into the picture, the biz aspect of the city makes it a haven for promo copies, many of which turn up used, usually at Cheapo, which has something like a dozen locations in Mpls/St. Paul and does business as Everyday Music up here in the PNW. So having cheap music around helps a lot, too, because people like me can/could stock up for very little money. It’s also a cheap place to live (the most I ever paid for rent there was $330, when I was 18; after doing that for a year, I paid less before moving away for real at 24). The presence of First Avenue, specifically its now-defunct all-ages dance nights on Sundays, is also critical, because they played a little of everything--punk, ska, hip-hop, techno, house, alt-rock, whatever---which sort of indoctrinated you into liking, or at least hearing, a lot of things, and non-specialization has always been a hallmark of Mpls rockcrit. On top of that, City Pages has been the best alt-weekly in the country for over a decade now, and a lot of that is due to their arts writing; the standard of competence has always been really high there.
2. ok, let's say you're dating someone who's in a band. you can't write about that band, because that's unprofessional. likewise, if a musician is your best friend/roommate/sibling, you can't write about his/her work, right? my question is, where do you think that line gets drawn? how friendly/intimate do you have to be with an artist before it becomes frowned upon for you to write about them?
For me, it’s a matter of degrees. I’m socially friendly with people I’ve written about---Slug is an example---but I’m not especially close to them and I don’t think it clouds my judgment; if it did, I wouldn’t write about them. The exception is Party of One, a band on Fatcat that’s gotten some really good press; their leader, Eric, is my oldest friend in the world, and when I received the promo, I called the publicist and told her upfront that I couldn’t write about it, because I’m too close to the source.
It impacts me as an editor, too. One writer pitched a feature on a band whose leader, I happened to know, they had briefly dated a few years ago. Even with the passage of time I had to say no. In the other direction, one of my coworkers dates a band member, and not only will that coworker not write about that band, for obvious reasons, the band member won’t talk to anyone at the paper at all. It sucks for me---they’re a really good band---but it’s that couple’s decision and I respect it.
Anyway, it could be far worse--you could be reviewing books full-time.
3. another question relating to the ethics of rock criticism. i noticed that you reviewed the new streets album for both the village voice and red flag media. is that kosher, to review the same album for two different publications? i've struggled with this question, because sometimes two places will ask me to write about something, and while i don't want to turn down the $$, i can't shake the sense that people will think i'm "cheating" by doing it. am i just being stupid?
I think it’s kosher as long as you make different points, or at least try to, in different publications, and certainly word them differently. I don’t have a problem w/people doubling up---I do it a fair amount, obviously---but there’ve been instances where I’ll get a review from someone who’s also written about it elsewhere and there will be entire sentences or paragraphs lifted whole from the other review. That pisses me off. The other rule I follow is to make sure you’re not writing for competing publications; if I write about something for the Voice I won’t write about it for Time Out New York, or if I’m writing about it for Spin I won’t write about it for Rolling Stone. (Not that I write for either of the latter very often, but you see my point.)
1) Who is an artist/group that you do not particularly enjoy but see great potential in, and if you could, what you change about them to make them more to your liking?
I tend not to “see great potential” in artists because I’m generally too busy trying to suss the wares in front of me, and I’m nobody’s idea of a good prognosticator. The answer is probably tied among a dozen or a hundred bands, with the advice being, “Get rid of that fucking singer.”
2) If you had the power to select a non-mainstream (ie, no significant press coverage or radio/tv airplay in the US) artist and make them as hugely popular as Eminem/Outkast/Beyonce/Timberlake/etc, who would you choose, and why?
I’m not sure I’d choose anyone, simply because that mainstream world is something you enter at your peril, psychically and every other way. But to go along w/the spirit of your question, the Junior Boys and United State of Electronica should be far more popular than they are now, and I’m willing to bet they will be by the end of the year.
3) Who is your least favorite indie rock artist/band to gain prominence in the past three or four years, and why?
Bright Eyes. His lyrics are excruciating, his singing worse, and while he’s obviously got a knack for tune and arrangement his entire “I’m the only one in this world with any soul and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT, you heartless bitch” shtick makes me want to throw cans of soup at him. I saw him perform in early 2001 and it’s the one time I ever felt violently angry at a musical performance; after three songs I had to get up and pace the lobby.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Answers to questions, which you can keep coming if you'd like. One humble request: I am grateful that anyone reads this at all and realize that being a rock-critic list freak makes me susceptible to a certain kind of responder, but of the seven people below (the first is pseudonymous but I'm 99% certain it's a guy), none have been female. So if you're a woman who reads this, can you at least drop me a line and say so? I just want to continue the illusion that I'm not propagating a sausage factory here. Thanks.
To the Qs and As then . . .
From C C:
1. Is your real name Michaelangelo, I mean come on, you are a balding, pudgy white guy. My assumption is that you are just one those journalists who chose to "stand out"; like those people who use middle initials, you merely chose a famous artist, and now your byline is bronzed in people's minds like a Renaissance statue. Am I right?
My grandfather is Puerto Rican and my grandmother is majority Irish; my mother and her six brothers and sisters have English first names and Spanish middle names, as do I: first name Michael, middle name Angelo. Matos is my grandfather’s last name. All of this occurred long before I lost my hair or went to pudge, and I’ve never made a secret of it.
2. Are you a conceited bastard who thinks he knows everything about music, and because you belong to an elite group of rock journo's do you think you are holier than thou and therefore unwilling to let anyone into your circle jerk?
I have my conceited moments and my bastard moments, which aren’t always at the same time, though I generally tend to think I’m neither. Nobody knows everything about music, don’t be silly. If by “elite group of rock journos” you mean I occasionally write for larger magazines, well, I don’t make my living that way, nor did I before I became an editor, so I don’t feel particularly elite that way; I rate my skillz pretty well, but there are lots of writers consistently better than me, so “elite” doesn’t work that way so well either. As far as circle jerks are concerned, 1) I’ve been a regular poster on I Love Music, a public forum, since 2001; I think it’s pretty evident that I value open discourse pretty highly. And 2) the idea that there’s a Mason-like private headquarters with a secret passcode where rockcrits meet and plot what the discourse is going to be for the next six months is a potent one, because I used to think it, too, until I realized that the only reason it seems like that is because rock criticism, like all writing, is notoriously chummy. Is it a circle jerk? Possibly, but I also think it’s less of one than it’s commonly accused of being. Also, calling it that is a pretty tired cliché at this point---one that, if you know enough to call it a circle jerk, you’re probably part of yourself.
3. I'm a big fan, and happen to think you are one of the better music critics in the country, thus the conceited question. I'd fucking be conceited! The circle jerk is what I think music editors do when they get together and play the Smiths. My last question is more serious. Would you love music more or less if you weren't writing about it, picking it apart, and criticizing, whatever that word means, this beautiful creation we call music?
Thank you! I always thought of the Smiths as a private pleasure (for the record, I only began enjoying their music as music about three years ago), but maybe you know different music editors than I do. Yes, I’d love music just as much if I weren’t writing about it, I’d just be potentially exposed to less of it and probably feel less exasperated as a result. But that love renews itself remarkably consistently.
1) i finally got my hands on a copy of accidental evolution of rock n roll ($3 amazon used baby!), omfg wtf lol 'samazing, i came this close to writing some knobslob stalker fanmail a la miccio (only mine wouldn't have my resume attached), AND (here's where it comes to you) (besides amazon connex - they still haven't/won't print my review of sign - "U need 2 read this book." - wtf that's priceless) i've decided/realized that i finally have a concept/gimmick/blueprint for the mix-cdrs i've owed you since the dems ran the senate, and then it occurred to me you kinda had this idea before when you did it with generation ecstasy, ie. yup yup a listener's guide to accidental hoohaw. THEN it occurred to me that a fair take of how worthwhile a book is is how good a mix you can pan from it (i'm thinking hornby's songbook yields dud; if so thesis proven correct)(that fucking thing was nominated for a national book award)(how many other rockcrit books have gotten that nod?)(keyword: crit as opposed to rockjourno)(ie. my guess is guralnick's gotten some love). there was an album derived from lipstick traces that was like this and which fucking ruled and which maybe maybe i even remembered to burn onto cd. and yr gen ecs and my futuretense accidental and maybe a million others now if this becomes a blogmeme (maybe it already was, i forget). THEN i thought rockcrits when writing their rockcrit books should use this as a lighthouse/roadmap - "how good a mix is the reader gonna be able to get outta this?" and THEN it occurred to me this is probably what yall already do in a fashion since, duh, you're already listening to the music before you write and probably after you write (10% of the time maybe even after you write) and this whole thing was me having the epiphany 'hey they should use concrete and steel to build buildings! i should pass this hot tip to my construction buddies!'. SO: (two questions, which when combined POSSIBLY equal one real question)(futurama - "that question is less stupid, though you asked it in a profoundly stupid way.") 1) whattya think? 2) what're some books that will yield some good mix cd-r's (avoid ones that have already done so - lipstick traces, stomp and swerve)
First of all, I didn’t put that Generation Ecstasy set together; Michael Daddino did. (I did do a single-disc condensation of it for the ILM Rough Guides thread, but Mike had already done all the hunting-gathering part of the work for me. For that matter, I did one on Accidental Evolution as well, but that was done mostly out of conjecture---I haven’t even heard half the songs I picked.) I sort of agree w/your theory, though I suspect it has more to do with target marketing than with actual writing quality. I’m faintly appalled that Songbook got the National Book Award nom; I liked both About a Boy and High Fidelity, which leads me to suspect Hornby’s great literary gift is dialogue; even if his characters are cardboard (and I think they’re better than he’s given credit for, especially by folks on ILx), he writes far more interestingly about his stand-ins than himself.
Some books I think would make good or great mix-CDs: What Was the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Record? by Steve Propes and Jim Dawson; Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential; Jay Stevens’ Storming Heaven.
2) ts: potatoey potato soup types soups vs. brothy broth soups vs. stewtype stew soups
They all have their merits, but as I type this I could go for the first.
3) what's ichiro's at bat music? and what would your's be? (remember you only get like the first eight to ten seconds of the song)(mines that 'no fun'/'push it' boot from a few years back).
Don’t know Ichiro’s (I haven’t followed baseball in ages), but right now mine would be United State of Electronica’s “Emerald City.”
1. Which album should I buy today: the new Morrissey or the Trillville & Lil Scrappy thing?
The latter. Morrissey hasn’t made a good record in a decade and I can’t imagine why anyone would think he’s about to start now.
2. Do your friends actually call you Michaelangelo? Isn't that sort of long?
A lot of them do. “Matos” is also common. “Michael” is my general preference.
3. Is it possible to make a decent living freelancing?
It depends where you live, who you write for, and how frequently. I got lucky living in New York and freelancing there because my apartment was cheap, I was doing occasional good-money work and lots of stuff for lots of medium-sized places. When I began freelancing full time in Minneapolis in 1999 (meaning no day job, though I had the occasional record store or nightclub to supplement my income), I was paying $232 a month in rent (I shared a house with two other people), so my overhead was very low. Keep in mind that I had no insurance for years--this week I’m going to the dentist four days in a row to make up for a decade between visits--and I’ve never learned to drive, so I’ve never had car costs to worry about.
1. Do you have a secret plan?
2. Have you ever been mellow?
3. What is the record you love the most that you know you'd get the most shit for if you admitted it so you probably never would unless some pain in the ass asked you about it but you asked for it so tough shit answer the question already Matos WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF that might be the fourth question?
I’ve never understood the assumption that every critic has some secret record they don’t tell anyone they love. If I like a record, I like it, and that’s that. I don’t think I’ve been “afraid” of telling anyone I liked something since I started writing, and probably before.
Does "Matos" translate to a noun of some type?
Not that I’m aware of. It’s my grandfather’s name; he’s from Puerto Rico. So maybe it does; I know almost no Spanish.
Why do so many of the used CD's I buy from walk-in chain stores (Wherehouse of Music) have "Generic Flipper" written on the UPC label when, in fact, Flipper is not the artist inside?
If you see a photograph of a CD collection, say, on the box of a CD tower display, can you resist (a) looking and (b) forming a judgement about the collection's general merit?
(a) No and (b) The collection’s, I do; the collector’s, I try not to.
Kevin John Bozelka:
1. A long one. I read the Chris Heath piece on Prince which, I believe, you said was the best thing ever written on him. Heath's conversation with Martika sums up what I love/loathe about the piece/Prince: "If he was rude, so what? You can excuse all that, you must excuse all that, because what it allows to exist-his music-is ultimately much more important." This is an idea echoed by my man John Leland in a, I think, better piece from Spin: "His excesses are directed inward, excused by his talent rather than shared through it." As a popist who celebrates the allure of celebrity and immersion in media, I excuse the rudeness. I excuse it because Prince makes me dance, cry, laugh, scratch my head and my balls. I also do it because he employs people and keeps Minneapolis pumping, as Heath noted. But as a popist who longs to do away with modernist mystification and all high/low divisions and who longs for a socialist utopia which would result in, among other things, the collectivization of popular music (worship Joshua Clover's Barbie Hit Mix piece in the Voice!!!), I do not excuse the rudeness. I do not excuse it because I want the means of production to be shared and wealth to be evenly distributed. I also do not because I want to end the privileged access of the Members Only balcony at Glam Slam and of Heath himself who ends his article knowing the real Prince, with Prince making perfect sense to him. So I ask: were we to attain a socialist utopia (and not the provisional utopia of "Alphabet St." that Leland describes so perceptively), could Prince exist as we know him today? Could he still be rude and evade questions while not only breathing the same air as us but sharing the floor-sweeping duties at Paisley Park with us as well? Would we be condemned to the more unambiguous, direct myths of Springsteen to whom Leland contrasts Prince?
I like Heath’s Prince piece a lot, and while I’m sure there are better ones out there, it’s rare, especially now, to find one that gets to the bottom of his mystique, or tries to, as well or as interestingly. But Prince hasn’t kept Minneapolis pumping in years, and in fact wasn’t really doing so even during that article; his financial impact on the city had eroded considerably by the time Heath’s piece appeared (October 1991; I bought it right after the Halloween blizzard that year). And Glam Slam closed ages ago; it currently lives on as the Quest, under much different ownership, which it’s had for a decade or better.
To the question itself: Why not? Talent will out, plus he’s insular enough that it probably wouldn’t matter what the surroundings were, he’d retreat into his own la-la land in some fashion. Maybe the degree to which he’d remain unchanged in that scenario would be pretty low, but I’ve never been a nature-or-nurture-choose-one kind of guy.
2. I tried to replicate your C700MB Go! 2003 play list. (By the way, I was quite moved by this line from your year-end wrap-up: "If it isn't happening to me, it probably is happening." I hope to work it into my Spin thesis.) I'm almost there (missing 3 tracks: Hi-Fi Hillary: "Re-Work It;" Vacuous Ninnies: "(Can't) Get Up;" Wiley: "Donkey Kick") but I'm not sure I have the right versions of two songs:
Todd Edwards: "Beckon Call (2003 Remix)" (i!). I have the 2003 Praise Version at 6:50 and another at 6:38 with more vocal snippets. Which, if any, is the 2003 Remix you like?
Data 80: "You Are Always on My Mind (Extended Mix)" (Forcetracks). The version I have says "Extended Mix" but it's only 3:42. Is this the right one?
I got the Todd Edwards from Full On Vol. 2, a CD I reviewed for the Voice; I chose it primarily because it was the one track on the CD that wasn’t mixed into and out of (well, it was, but the beginning sounded relatively unaffected), and because the subtitle said it was from 2003. It’s 6:49 on my CD-R, so I assume it’s the “Praise Version.” The Data 80 is indeed 3:42. And while I’m extremely flattered you’ve taken the time to assemble the thing, you could always just email me for a trade.
3. Who is your favorite gay or lesbian popular music critic?
Great question; I’m going to pick one of each. My favorite lesbian pop writer is probably Elisabeth Vincentelli, who edits at Time Out New York; her book on ABBA Gold in the Continuum 33 1/3 series is wonderful, and she’s extremely good at seeming offhand while not being at all. I’m extremely tempted to say my favorite gay male pop writer is Michael Daddino, which is cheating some, since aside from his Net-only writing and some stray Pazz & Jop quotes I’ve edited the only things he’s written for print publication, and he’s a good friend. (Elisabeth is a friend as well.) But unless I’m missing someone (and I probably am), the gay-rockcrit champ has to be Jon Savage.
1) What's your take on Prince's Musicology?
I’ve only heard it once in full, at a coffeeshop on a sick day from work that resulted from what regular blog readers will recognize as, wink wink, “the Kid.” It sounded pretty good, like a record that will finish somewhere in the mid-50s or so of my year-end albums list. I’ve never been of the mind that Prince had to keep topping himself; apart from writing the SOTT book, the period where I was most obsessed with Prince was probably ’95-6, the Gold Experience/Chaos & Disorder/Emancipation era, so I have a lot of fondness for those albums that in some ways equals my feelings about the ’80s stuff. I haven’t played any of them in full in years, though. I never got sent a copy of Musicology and I’ve never gotten around to buying one, probably because they’re giving them away to ticket buyers at the shows (I’m seeing him August 30) and probably because I haven’t seen a used copy yet. But I will have to get one eventually so I can write about it before the show.
2) What musical artist are you ashamed/humiliated to admit to liking?
I’ve already answered this in a fashion, but the answer is none. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures; if I like something, I like it, and that’s that.
3) What film of, oh, the past 10 years has the best use of music in it?
That’s tough for me to answer because I don’t see very many movies. Plus the way music is often used in movies is pretty boring—the soundtrack industry in general is. Certainly TV has stolen the movies’ thunder on this subject anyway, though the one season of The Sopranos that I watched, the third, didn’t really appeal to me at all. (My girlfriend at the time, with whom I was living, was a big fan.)
1) As editor of Seattle Weekly, what is the best thing about your audience?
I think there are two audiences: people who pick up the paper, who comprise the majority of its readership, and people who read us online and are not necessarily local but are fans of the writers we use, and of arts and music writing in general. The latter is a nice audience to have, period; if we’re lucky, they’ll follow me and/or our writers wherever we go, both within the paper and if/when we move on. But locally, the people who like it are vocal about it, in person more than via email or letters to the editor; they’ll mention specific articles when I meet the at clubs or whatnot. They’re getting it, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting to happen--especially having lived here before twice. Seattle’s a pretty laid-back city and my approach is much more active (in the writing, and the overall editorial voice) than is usual here, so I expected (and got) some resistance. But people have been a lot less resistant than I’d expected.
2) What is the worst thing?
The climate seems more anti-intellectual here than in Minneapolis or New York, at least as far as people writing and reading about music is concerned, which is a little annoying. And I get almost no feedback from readers either way, which can feel disappointing. I like what Eric Weisbard and Ann Powers said in the Jukebox Jury I did with them: people up here are very taciturn and unwilling to seem pretentious, and pretentiousness is actually not that bad a thing.
3) How much time/effort do you spend thinking about such things?
Within the job itself, not much; mostly, what I do is assign pieces on bands I’d want to read about or figure should be written about whether I like them or not, give them to people I want to read on those topics, and line edit them with the mind of making them accessible. The Weekly’s readership skews older, so keeping things accessible for that audience is something I think about a lot.
1) What’s your favorite studio production cliché?
I am a huge fan of studio production clichés, and a sucker for many. For now, I’ll pick envelope filtering---it’s the thing that makes a record sound like it’s going in and out of focus, or like cupping your hand over your ear and slowly moving it away. But there are dozens.
2) What's your least-favorite rock writing cliché?
This might sound flippant, but I mean it sincerely: rockism. Indieism runs a close second, followed hard by use of the passive voice, a big reason so much English music writing is terrible. (It’s not just the English that use it, but boy do they have a lock on it as a device.) If you’re talking about phrases, “[cause] always does/equals/means [effect].” The laziest of the lazy--nothing always means anything, ever.
3) If you were sitting in your apartment one night, and suddenly the door flew open and Donnie Iris walked in to your living room with his arm around Neil Young's neck and a gun pointed at Neil's head, and he told you, "Blow me or Neil gets it," would you blow him?
I’d probably start on him just long enough for Neil to escape, then try to get the gun away from him. But I don’t think he’d like it very much, since I’ve never given a blowjob before.
1. Sally Timms once remarked to me that being a critic is very similar to being a prostitute for one reason: Your boundaries between pleasure and work are never solid. As a budding critic, this is a central issue of any future I might have in this profession and it frankly scares the hell out of me. How do you deal or not deal with this issue?
I don’t actually worry about this very much, because I never consciously decided to think critically about things. It’s how I think; writing it down comes later, at least ideally. So for me it’s all pleasure (except when it isn’t) and all work (except when it comes really easily).
2. I work at at a newspaper and write about hip hop, mainly. The few times I wrote about the racial makeup of the audience (something that varies widely from show to show), I sort of got crucified by some readers for "reviewing the audience instead of the artist." Even though I maintain that race remains the white elephant in hip hop, I was wondering what you think about the act of "reviewing the audience." Is it something that critics doing live reviews should avoid or embrace?
I think the audience is part of a live show and has just as much to do with the experience of attending as the performer does. Writing about the audience can be tricky, though, because they’re not putting themselves in the public eye the way a performer is, and therefore that kind of scrutiny can look unseemly. But it’s no different from commenting on someone’s shoes on the subway. As far as your experiences go, let’s face it---people, especially in the Midwest, are skittish about race, period, because it’s a hot-button topic. (I just went through this a little myself on an ILM thread when I pointed out a bill of four indie-noise bands that was headlined by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings looked pretty incongruous; someone actually posited that it was a return to the glory years of bills like the Feelies-DNA-Sun Ra Arkestra one he’d seen on a 22-year-old flyer. Yep, three bands that sound nothing alike vs. four with loads in common w/each other and none w/the fifth---same exact thing, yessir.) It’s the classic white liberal guilt method of not mentioning race at all and thinking that will take care of it being a factor in everyday life, and it doesn’t.
3. I should apologize for the total lack of fun my questions possess. But you asked for the questions that come to mind and doggone it, here they are: Who is the publicist for Greensleeves and why will they not return my calls/emails?! Maybe you have to be all skillz and established like yourself but I'll be darned if they answered a single thing I wrote.
They’re a strange company that way. I called Frank, who runs their office, on the advice of my friend Paul Kennedy last year. Paul is the imports buyer for Tower Records, and I mentioned him; they sent me Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2003 and The Biggest Dancehall Hits 1979-82, and I think something else I’d asked for at a later time, but I got almost nothing from them afterward. Then, in January, I was mailed the Vybz Kartel record out of nowhere and have been getting everything from them. Maybe it’s because I put Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2003 in my year-end top ten. Anyway, next time I get something sent to me by them I’ll forward you the address.
Monday, May 17, 2004
This is the part of the blog where I steal from Douglas, who stole it from lots of other people I don't know of and therefore cannot link. (I'm going to also steal his wording, partly, and that will be in quotes.) I'd have done this earlier but I was waaay too busy, and may yet be too busy again to do it in a very timely fashion, but here goes anyway: If you are reading this blog between now (Monday evening) and, let's say, Wednesday night, "I'd like you to ask me something. Up to three questions, and anything goes--literally anything you want my answers to. I promise not to take offense at any questions, and to answer every one (either" on the blog "or by private mail) as well and honestly as I can."
I am going to assume, unless you say otherwise, that the questions and the people who ask them are available for me to post on this blog. If you'd prefer not to have either the questions, your name/handle (just tell me what you prefer), or both posted here, just say so and I'll honor your request. Unlike Douglas and lots of other fine bloggers, I don't have a comments box on mine, though I could probably do something about it if I were so inclined. C'est la vie. Anyway, I don't have a tracker or counter on this thing, either, so I really am in the dark about my readership at times. This could be fun, it could be a pain in the ass, but most of all it's something I'm curious about, and if you're curious about me, let's do it. [Haha that's either the best or worst come-on line ever, isn't it?]
The fake tooth now exists. For now it's silver; in two weeks it will be replaced by gold. This is a considerable improvement on the not-actually-really-a-tooth actual-tooth that had been bothering me off and on for 15 months, and despite the considerable cost (not least in terms of time--though I've been notably productive the past couple-three weeks, I've also had to force myself through it, arrrgh--but mostly I'm talking money here; root canals are expensive), I'm really glad to have it taken care of. Plus my dentist is excellent! Last week, I went in and had the bad tooth cleaned out; it flared up like a motherfucker for the rest of the day, almost completely unbearable--taking 15 months of infection out was not unlike what I imagine removing a bullet from a wound is like, or a sliver if you prefer. Probably a cross between the two, actually, but believe me, it hurt worse than at any point of it actually being infected. Anyway, 7pm, I'm on the phone at the office and there's a direct-line call. It's the dentist: "Just wanted to check up on you and make sure you were doing OK." WOW! What a guy! Dr. Rick Chavez, ladies and gentlemen, runs a family dental outfit at 8008 NW 15th Ave. in Seattle, check him out.
Totally fun piece on eating at Iron Chef Morimoto's Philadelphia restaurant by William Crump, w/lotsa pictures. $600 for a meal is pricey by anyone's standards, but seeing as how I've got friends in Philly I need to visit sometime anyway, I'm wondering . . .
Friday, May 14, 2004
Me on my favorite album so far this year in the Voice.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Stephin Merritt in old, out of it, and talking out his ass shockah. "OutKast is boring music for suburban teenagers"--yes, and the Magnetic Fields is boring music for their older siblings who fancy themselves intellectual because they read half a magazine piece by David Foster Wallace.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
So I was wrong about the root canal. That's Monday. Today was just cleaning and filling, putting in a temp fill until the big job happens--four hours under the scalpel, yay-rah. The drugs they give me afterward better be fucking sensational.
Sign a petition, demand Rumsfeld resign.
Would you believe it? I'm getting a root canal. Or at least that's what the dentist I made the appointment with for tomorrow (Wed.) at 10am is guessing needs to happen, based on my symptoms. A funny thing: two weeks ago, when I went into ER w/the kidney stone (referred to by me from here on in as "the Kid"), the doctor asked me to rate the pain in my stomach on a one-to-ten scale. I was like, "Well, that's easy! I'm a critic--I do that with records all the time!" So I said it was a consistent 7 with occasional leaps into 8 or 9--sort of like an inspired journeyman, a Richard Thompson of pain. After all the tests and the catscan and all the doc was like, "I thought it was a kidney stone right away, but you said it was only a 7 on the pain scale," and I was like, "Well, I didn't wanna overrate it . . . "
Today, when I was talking to the dentists' nurse over the phone, she asked me for various symptoms (lower left molar, next-to-last in the row; off and on for over a year, but especially intense the past two weeks; everything aggravates it, not just heat and cold), came the question: "On a scale from one to ten . . . " And this time I was ready: "9. And sometimes 10." Fuck this underrating shit, I'm in friggin' PAIN, and I want as many meds as they'll give me--to hell with whatever namby-pamby excuse/s I've been making for this thing of late. If life's gonna suck for me for three weeks straight (barring friends visiting and the fact that I am in fact still alive and breathing and eating and whatnot, but you know what I mean), I might as well get something to take care of it.
By the way, and the first two sentences of this post were cribbed from Keith, who cribbed them from Huey "Piano" Smith, who also had the rockin' pneumonia, the boogie woogie flu, the tu-ber-cu-lucas, the sinus blues, high blood pressure, a pop-eye, a free and single disengagement, a drag-queen singer, some of the greatest nonsense lyrics ever written, Earl Palmer on drums, and the best left hand in New Orleans this side of Fats Domino's. He also made "Little Liza Jane," maybe the hardest-rocking record of the '50s, which if I had MP3-blog capabilities I'd upload right this second.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Here's a pleasure masquerading as a dilemma: playing The Pretty Toney Album and trying to figure out which song to add to the ever-increasing C700 Go! list I'm compiling for the year as it goes. "Beat the Clock"? "Save Me Dear"? "Holla," in which Ghostface's second verse climaxing in a perfect "All I know is . . . " back to the hook (the song is a direct crib of the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You") is about as great as formalism gets (first and most recent times I played them it made me yell out loud)? "Be This Way"? "Tooken Back"? (What the FUCK is that female vocal, and how do I mainline it?) "Run"? On music alone the album's right up there with my other faves this year (Streets, Mountain Goats, Hold Steady), and I haven't even begun to fathom the lyrics yet. Hip-hop--what a wonderful thing.
By the way, here's what I've got picked out so far for the C700 Go!--which from the way things are going will probably be more like a C1400 Go! The numbering on the first 23 cuts indicates not preferential order but the sequence I've put them in for now; this will doubtless change as the year progresses. The rest are just songs I like and have picked out. All of it, particularly toward the end, is subject to change.
1. The Hold Steady: “Positive Jam” (Frenchkiss)
2. Go Home Productions: “Rock with Addiction (Awww)” (www.gohomeproductions.co.uk)
3. The Walkmen: “The Rat” (Record Collection)
4. Courtney Love: “Mono” (Virgin)
5. Janet Jackson: “Love Me for a Little While” (Virgin)
6. Stereolab: “Vonal Declosion” (Elektra)
7. Nada Surf: “Au Fond du Reve Dore” (Hear)
8. Belle & Sebastian: “I’m a Cuckoo (Avalanches Mix)” (Rough Trade)
9. M.I.A.: “Galang” (Showbiz, U.K.)
10. Mya ft. Chingy: “Fallen (Zone 4 Remix)” (Interscope)
11. Memphis Bleek ft. Jay-Z: “Murda Murda” (Roc-a-Fella)
12. Sleepy Brown ft. OutKast: “I Can’t Wait” (Interscope)
13. J-Kwon: “Tipsy (Radio Mix)” (Arista)
14. G Unit: “Eye for Eye” (Shady/Aftermath)
15. Kanye West ft. Twista & Jamie Foxx: “Slow Jamz” (Roc-a-Fella)
16. Keyshia Cole ft. Eve: “Never” (Interscope)
17. Todd Edwards & Filthy Rich ft. Damon Trueitt: “Stormy Day (Dubstrumental)” (i!)
18. LCD Soundsystem: “Yeah (Stupid Version)” (DFA)
19. Philip Jeck: “Wipe” (Touch)
20. El-P ft. Harry Keys: “When the Moon Was Blue” (Thirsty Ear)
21. Strictly Kev: “Raiding the 20th Century: A History of the Cutup” (MP3)
22. United State of Electronica: “La Discoteca” (B-Side)
23. Ark: “Avoine” (Karat)
Voodoo Child, “Minors” (V2)
The Mountain Goats, “Your Belgian Things” (4AD)
Rocket From the Tombs, “Never Gonna Kill Myself Again” (Smog Veil)
Nellie McKay: “Clonie” (Sony)
Vybz Kartel: “Hall of Fame” (Greensleeves)
Mocky: “Fuck All Night” (Clone, Germany)
The Streets: “Fit But You Know It” (Vice)
Jae Millz: “No, No, No” (Warner Bros.)
Christina Milian ft. Fabolous: “Dip It Low (Remix)” (Island)
Coachwhips: “Evil Son” (Narnack)
The Mountain Goats: “Letter From Belgium” (4AD)
Moonbabies: “Summer Kids Go” (Hidden Agenda)
Poster Children: “Jane” (Hidden Agenda)
Iron & Wine: “Sodom, South Georgia” (Sub Pop)
Dizzee Rascal: “Unreleased” (MP3)
Squarepusher: “Iambic 9 Poetry” (Warp)
The Visitors: “No Under on the Ground” (Playhouse)
Butchies: “Your Love” (Yep Roc)
Mouse on Mars: “Send Me Shivers” (Thrill Jockey)
Cécile: “Hot Like We” (Greensleeves) [may follow this one w/"Galang”]
Pan-American: “Retouch” (Kranky)
Luomo: “Shelter” (Ultra/BMG)
The Necks: “Drive By” (Recommended)
Sonic Youth: “I Love Golden Blue” (DGC)
Macha: “Paper Tiger” (Jetset)
!!!: “Shit Scheisse Merde Pt. 1 (Instrumental)” (Touch and Go)
Vladislav Delay: “Kotilainen” (Huume)
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Music-awards crunch week; not fun. (Though Sunday was pretty terrific; Sick Bees and Akimbo kicked ass, Codebase was his usual good self, and Siamese, whom I'd never heard, were surprisingly excellent--on paper, I'd have never given a bass-and-drum duo who play along with present drum and bass [the genre] beats, particularly post-brock-out junglist ones, a second look, but they evoked the moment before techstep turned into what my friend Tricia refers to as "oh-Mickey-you're-so-fine" tedium.) Drama with the family--also not fun, at all. (Let's just say my mother and my sister don't get along, and my mother needs to learn how to deal with people, not just her children, in a more constructive manner.) And then today, I found out my old coworker Jenn Wynne, the Weekly's editorial assistant during much of my initial tenure here (roughly mid-2000 through March '01; I think she left sometime late that same year) and one of the sweetest, most lively, and most competent people I have ever encountered, took her own life sometime last week. She was 24. I can't claim we were best friends or that I had even talked to her after I moved to New York, but when I was here I hung out with Jenn and her then-girlfriend Caroline a lot, and they're some of my favorite memories of Seattle and of that period of my life. I thought of her a lot while I was in New York, even after I found out she had moved to northern California; I always figured we would resume contact at some point. I tried Googling her a couple of times, to little avail; the name "Jennifer Wynne" is common enough not to yield particularly promising, or pinpoint, results. Now she's gone, and all I can think is what a horrible shame, what a thorough waste it is. This is a memorial site one of her friends started; I wrote something totally inadequate on it just to leave a mark, because it was the least I could do, and I'm writing this here, because it is the least I can do.
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Are the gods hating on me? This week has been really good in some ways (seeing Chris and Jody, as well as Gareth, who's here till tomorrow [Monday], the afterglow of a very fun EMP Pop Conference, as well as getting lots of incredibly nice feedback on the book), and really crappy in others: Not only did the kidney stone happen (still hasn't come out the other end, so to speak, either--can't *wait* for that, cough cough), but yesterday my recurring toothache recurred again, less painfully than it has in the past but more forcefully in some ways; I'm having trouble chewing on the good (right) side of my mouth. (The toothache is in my left molars.) Not sure if my work insurance covers dental yet; if not, I'll have to sign up for another kind, which wouldn't be a big deal except paperwork of that nature always freaks me out to some degree. (That's one reason I never attended college--I found the paperwork involved incredibly daunting. That and the fact that I was lazy, poor, didn't do that well in school till junior and senior years, and I found a kind of perverse pride in not attending.) Wish me luck.